33-year-old Aucklander Jono Ridler will attempt a New Zealand record non-stop ultra-distance open water swim from Karaka Bay, Aotea Great Barrier Island to Narrow Neck Beach, Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland in a weather window on or soon after 25th April.
Jono’s unprecedented attempt at the 100km Swim4TheGulf will test the limits of human endurance and is driven by a personal desire to inspire urgent action to protect and restore the health of the Hauraki Gulf, Tīkapa Moana Te Moananui-ā-Toi.
In 2021 the Government announced a plan that conservation groups hailed as a good first step towards turning the health of the Gulf around, but nearly two years on any changes are yet to come into effect. The swim acknowledges the significance and value of the Gulf, and also acts as a call to Government to move now to protect and restore it.
Live Ocean founders and sailors Blair Tuke and Peter Burling welcome Jono as a fellow ocean athlete who, like them, will use his voice to help drive action for a healthy ocean.
Peter Burling says he has massive admiration for Jono’s effort; “he’ll be pushing himself to the edge of what’s humanly possible to raise attention about the state of the Gulf. We’re asking the public to really get behind him and show him massive support. We have to draw a line in the sand. We need central government to prioritise this.”
If successful Jono will surpass New Zealand’s current record which stands at the 80.8km double crossing of Lake Taupo and will be marked as the longest continuous solo-unassisted open-water swim recorded in Aotearoa New Zealand. The swim, done without a wetsuit to comply, is expected to take between 30 and 35 hours.
As an action adventurer passionate about ensuring a healthy ocean for future generations Jono hopes his swim attempt can draw attention and go some way towards overcoming the inertia of decision-makers towards the protection and restoration of the Hauraki Gulf.
He says, “Since I started open water swimming, I’ve had the great privilege of swimming in the ocean and lakes all across New Zealand, but the Hauraki Gulf is my backyard and it is incredibly special. The Gulf sparkles on a good day, but beneath the waterline in many places it’s a disaster-zone.”
“After spending countless hours with my head in the water seeing the devastation and hearing from scientists and locals about the state of the Gulf, I just couldn’t sit idle any longer. I want to make sure that I’m doing my part to see the health of Tīkapa Moana flourish for generations to come.”
Blair Tuke says, “The platform of sport is a powerful way to bring more people around important issues, so it’s awesome to welcome Jono into the Live Ocean whānau. It’s an unreal challenge and it’s going to raise real awareness for what’s happening below the surface here in the Gulf. This used to be one of the great coastal ecosystems of the world and it’s a heart-breaking to see the state it’s in.”
Every three years, the Hauraki Gulf Forum produces an independent report on the overall state of the Hauraki Gulf. Those reports show a Gulf under serious pressure from activities both on land and at sea. For example, plastic pollution from the land now sees our Bryde’s whales ingesting 3 million pieces of microplastic a day, while dredging of the seafloor has resulted in the need for an emergency closure of the Gulf’s last shellfish beds.
Alex Rogers, Chief Executive of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, will be watching Jono’s Swim4TheGulf and says; “Jono’s route will take him through some of the most beautiful and under-pressure parts of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. His starting point, Aotea Great Barrier Island, is battling a recent invasive seaweed infestation; then around Hauturu Little Barrier Island where out-of-control kina are grazing down the last kelp forests. In the inner Gulf fishing pressure and pollutants washing off land are creating dead zones.
“Jono’s swim will not only highlight the issues but also give us hope that we have the capacity to do more and do better than we have in the past. We need much more marine protection and restoration to ensure a healthier Hauraki Gulf for the future.”
Jono is one of ten to have conquered New Zealand’s ‘Triple Crown’ of marathon swimming – the west Aucklander swum 23km crossing Cook Strait in 2019, 40.4km up Lake Taupo in 2020, and 28.6km crossing Foveaux Strait in 2021. His Swim4TheGulf attempt is more than twice the distance of his longest ocean swim to date, further than all ‘triple crown’ swims combined, and will take 30 hours or more.
Departing in in optimal tide and weather conditions from 25 April – 5 May Jono will leave from Karaka Bay on the north western coast of Great Barrier Island. Setting off mid-morning Jono will swim throughout the night, and the following day, and is anticipating arriving to Narrow Neck beach late the following day.
Jono will adhere to the rules set out by the Marathon Swimmers Federation for solo-unassisted open-water marathon swims which means he’s restricted to using a set of standard equipment.